Saints hero Francis Benali backs The Big Issue’s Southampton FC partnership

Southampton FC hero Francis Benali gives his backing to the club's partnership with The Big Issue ahead of the start of the new Premier League season

Southampton FC have teamed up with The Big Issue ahead of this weekend’s Premier League opener with Swansea City – and club legend Francis Benali is right behind it.

The special edition Big Issue was sold across Southampton and Hampshire, and at St Mary's Stadium on match-day.

Benali, who played more than 300 times for the club in a 16-year spell at St Mary’s, brings his exclusive column to the first-of-its-kind matchday magazine produced by The Big Issue and Southampton for Saturday’s Premier League opener.

It is a good opportunity for Saints fans to learn what The Big Issue is about and how they help people

And he insists that the unique partnership, which will also create the chance of long-term employment opportunities for vendors through the club’s official charity Saints Foundation, is a great way for the St Mary’s faithful to learn about the life-changing work of The Big Issue.

“I love the idea, I think it’s great,” Benali said. “I see no reason why The Big Issue joining up with Saints Foundation won’t be a big success.

“It is a good opportunity for Saints fans to learn what The Big Issue is about and how they help people. It is not just about raising money, it is about raising awareness of the issues that they tackle and the things that they do, and that is just as important.”

Former defender Benali also believes that the Mauricio Pellegrino era can get off to a strong start this season.

I’m excited for the new season, from what I’ve seen of Saints, I think we’re looking good

The Argentine took over from Claude Puel as Saints boss in the summer and will be making his competitive debut in the dugout on Saturday.

Benali has backed the new man to be a success as the south coast club aim to top last term when they finished eighth in the Premier League and also reached the League Cup final.

He said: “I’m excited for the new season, from what I’ve seen of Saints, I think we’re looking good.

“We have had that little bit of upheaval with the change of management and I have a positive outlook on that, I see no reason why it can’t be a great season for the supporters.”

Read more from Benali in the special edition Saints match-day magazine which is now on sale in Southampton and across the local Hampshire region.

Created in partnership between The Big Issue and the club, the unique publication is available as the Premier League club’s official matchday programme in Saturday’s season opener and is also available from vendors in the area all this week.

The magazine is on sale in Portswood, Lordshill, Bitterne, Ringwood, Lymington, Eastleigh, Romsey, Winchester, Salisbury and Isle of Wight (Newport, Ryde and Cowes).

And, to mark the start of the partnership, Saints stars Oriol Romeu, Florin Gardos, Manolo Gabbiadini and Nathan Redmond hit the streets to help vendors Mark Morgan, Lee Barnes, Gary Jackson and Kev Collick sell the magazine on their pitch.

Inside the magazine…

  • Charlie Austin looks forward to the new campaign after seeing a promising season last term harshly curtailed by a five-month injury lay-off. The Southampton goal machine had racked up healthy return of nine goals before dislocating his shoulder last December and missed February’s EFL Cup Final defeat to Manchester United as a result. Austin insists he wants to hit the ground running and re-ignite his goalscoring exploits under the tutelage of new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino.
  • Legendary Saints’ FA Cup-winning former manager Lawrie McMenemy takes a nostalgic look back through his life and career in his Letter To My Younger Self. The 81-year-old reveals how he almost joined Manchester United, names Kevin Keegan his all-time best signing. It’s a candid, fascinating conversation, and another golden instalment to our unmissable archive of Letter To My Younger Self interviews.
  • Read more about the everyday life-changing work of the Saints Foundation. Like The Big Issue, the Foundation helps to give both young and old in society a helping hand. Explore how the club’s official charity has helped transform the lives of three men who had fallen on hard times, and discover how the charity’s Youth Inclusion and Generation Gains programmes impact the local community. The work of the Saints Foundation is also felt globally: find out about the organisation’s link-up with Mary’s Meals, a charity that provides school dinners to deprived children all over the world.
  • And, of course, LOTS more.

Main pic credit: PA Images